Thursday, November 27, 2014

Post Workplace Abuse: Learning through experiences on the road to recovery

Bullies are around us everywhere it seems.  As I continue progressing on this journey towards recovery, I've become aware that I cannot insulate myself entirely from bullies - especially when (if) I'm out and about.  Yet, as I keep working towards recovery, towards healthier ways of reacting and responding - and even letting go after an incident has happened, I can see progress, real progress, on my journey home.

Let me tell you about a recent incident I experienced riding a city bus.

A few weeks ago, I was on the bus on my way home from a local mall after lunch with a friend, minding my own business, knitting.  I also had a nice cup of tea tucked between my legs which my friend had bought for me.  A warm fuzzy, if you will.

My bags were on the seat beside me and I was basically oblivious to what was going on on the bus. I had become shakey and weak after my lunch with my friend and chosen my route home carefully to avoid using excess energy i.e. spoons.  Knitting helps me keep balanced when I feel stressed mentally and/or physically so basically I was using one of my most basic survival techniques.

I felt a man glaring at me.  Although no words were exchanged, it was very obvious that he was upset that I was sitting there in my own little world with my bags on the seat beside me depriving him of a seat. I reached over to move my bags.  Doing so I knocked over the tea in my lap.  He sat down and I resumed my knitting.  But it wasn't over ... yet.

The next thing I know this man is shoving me against the wall of the bus with his hip.  Not a small nudge, but a forceful, intentional shove.  I glared at him.

Note, that up until this point no words had been said by either of us.  He never asked if I'd move over so he could have the seat.  He simply glared.  He never asked if I could move over further - which I couldn't - he started shoving.

No one else nearby would have noticed anything as it was all nonverbal.

Shades of my former workplace.  No one noticed many provocations in the workplace because they were either nonverbal or occurred at times when no one else was present.

When this man saw my glare, he started making pronouncements such as: "Seats are for sitting."  Which clearly indicated that I was in the wrong.  He also said things like he didn't like part of him hanging over into the aisle.  He said that he liked to sit in that particular seat as it was close to the back door and he could get out easier.  Each  statement said as a pronouncement, a judgement, that I was clearly in the wrong.

For what?  For being in the same bus as himself?  For knitting?  For being a woman?  For sitting in the seat he preferred?

The situation went from bad to worse as we became involved in a loud, verbal confrontation.  Each time, he had the squelch.  The perfect put down.  He was the one in control.  I was the wrong doer.   Each statement was meant to cow me and take control over both the situation and myself.

Problem was though that each time he said something, I battled back.  I didn't cower like I was supposed to.  I didn't acquiesce, get up and give him the entire seat.

At one point he even said that I could have the seat which I pointed out was interesting because I'd been on the bus long before he'd entered.

At that point, he made a big show of turning off his hearing aids.  At that point the confrontation stopped.

Which was probably just as well since it was unwinnable - for both sides.  He wasn't about to admit that maybe, perhaps he was in the wrong and me ... well I'm no longer the meek, mild, co-dependent I used to be who would have given up the seat, stood in the aisle and seethed inwardly.

I felt uncomfortable.  I felt like bolting out the door - which was impossible as it was an express bus.  I felt like bolting to the driver and demanding he stop the bus and let me out - which would have brought attention to me - and might not have worked as there were no bus stops for this route between where we were and where I was getting off.  I opted to stay seated.  To stay quiet.  Seething in my anger.

At the end, we both got off at the same stop - and we both transferred to the same bus.  Ouch!  Talk about uncomfortable.

Afterwards, I felt like a wreck.  I felt like I was a horrible person.  I'd engaged in a loud confrontation on a bus.  I felt that I had done something wrong - because of the verbal confrontation.

You see, in the workplace anytime I got loud, I was automatically in the wrong.  It didn't matter what had preceded any loudness, what provocations had ensured, I was the one in the wrong because I was supposed to be in control of myself at all times and being loud was not being in control of myself.  This scenario occurred in both workplace situations, the being loud part.  In workplace abuse situation #1 being loud was wrong because it made others feel "uncomfortable".  I'm sure the passengers nearest us were definitely uncomfortable by our exchange.  And so I felt that I had done something terrible wrong on that bus, in that scenario.

I felt that I'd failed again.

Until ....

I messaged with a friend over Facebook, one of the people who has come into my life who copes with constant pain due to an autoimmune.  Her perspective that night was different from any other I'd heard.  She felt that I was not in the wrong even though we'd gotten loud.  Noticeably loud.  She was proud of me that I'd not gotten up and given him the entire seat.

Unlike many others I've encountered on this journey post workplace bullying, she didn't try to excuse this man's behaviour.  She didn't try to think it through and rationalize it from what may or may not have been his point of view.  She simply let me talk.  She listened to me.  She sympathized with me.  And she asserted that I was not in the wrong.

After our "conversation", I was able to finally go to sleep.  In the morning, I was able to analyze what had happened the previous day in a different light.  I called the transit company and reported the incident.  I talked to a lovely woman who also saw things in a "different" light from what I was used to as well.  She felt this man's behaviour was not appropriate.  He should have been using his "words" to ask for the seat instead of glaring.  He should have used his "words" to explain that he felt he needed more room on the seat instead of shoving.  She also said that there was nothing wrong with my bags being on the seat beside me - thus taking up both seats.  I was not in the handicapped seating at the front of the bus where people are required to give up their seats for the handicapped or those with strollers.  This man who was elderly had a perfect right to ask someone in that seating to get up for him to sit down.

But he didn't.  He chose me.  A lone woman.  A lone woman who was knitting.  A lone woman who had committed the sin of sitting in "his" seat.

After that phone call, I felt better.

I learned something, actually several things, through this incident.  I learned that being loud is not considered being out of control.  That it is not wrong in and of itself.

I realized that I'd internalized more lies through both workplace scenarios than I'd realized.  One was the lie that being loud was wrong.  The other was that even though I was angry and loud, I was thoroughly in control of myself during the situation.  I didn't behave inappropriately.  In fact, the transit employee felt that I'd handled the situation well.

The other positive thing I did was to get right back on the bus two days later.  I didn't allow myself to let the anxiety grow.  In addition, I realized that I've ridden buses for most of my 65 years on this planet and never had an experience like this one.  It was one experience in a lifetime of experiences.

I also learned something else, something very important.  You see, the encourager/supporter I would normally go to in a situation like this was out of the country with no cell phone or internet access.  Because I liaised with someone else through the net, I discovered that there are other resources.  That I can get through difficult experiences on my own.

In the end, I felt good about myself.  I could see recovery happening.

Yes, something bad did happen.  Something I had no way of foreseeing or controlling.  But in the end, I realized through this one isolated incident how much I've grown and recovered in the journey.

That's what this journey is all about, friends:  recovery.

Until tomorrow....

Monday, November 24, 2014

Surviving Workplace Abuse: Stuck in the chronic


If I'm not mistaken, my 11 year old granddaughter took this picture a couple of weeks ago.  It shows the me people don't always see.  The me excited by my creations.  The me who is finally re-emerging after a long desert of very dry places following my latest experience with workplace abuse.

*******

Last week I wrote about an unlikely friendship, one that has developed over a period of months based on our common bond of being marginalized:  me by trauma; my friend by schizophrenia.

I've been thinking a lot about friends, friendships and how they form.

What makes them last.  What makes them fade away.

Like workplace bullying, I think that friendship is complicated.  There's no one pat answer.  No one size fits all.   Except that you meet a person and they seem to click with you from the start. Then you work on it - one conversation, one shared experience, one laugh at a time.  For a very long time.

Friendships don't just happen.  They're something you work at over a period of time.  They grow (at least the good, lasting ones do) as you grow.  They survive adversity.  They survive chronic autoimmune diseases.  They survive cancer.  They survive trauma.

In short, they survive.

As I've gone through my journey re: workplace abuse, trauma and the long road to recovery, I've noticed that the greatest disadvantage or problem I face in my journey back is the lack of understanding among "regular" people.  At first, they listen and then they shut down and start to offer advice.  They want to fix the problem.  And when it can't be fixed, they walk away.

Why?

Because they simply don't understand what it's like to have something that doesn't go away whether it be an autoimmune disease, trauma, depression ... whatever.

People are usually there - at least temporarily - for what I call the acute phase.  The critical part.  The life or death part.  But I've learned that after the acute comes the chronic.

For example, I learned a few years ago about a little girl who had been born with unexplained bone marrow failure.  At 14 months, she had a bone marrow transplant.  For months, her life hung in the balance as she had fevers, etc.  She was rushed to hospital by helicopter several times and she and her family became very well acquainted with that unit in the hospital.

Many people followed her ups and down via postings on the Caring Bridge website.  We could understand the acute, the critical phase.  But can we understand the present?  The chronic?  She is now five; alive, but not completely well.  The transplant only took partially and there are long-term implications.

I also learned earlier this year about a mother who was going shopping with her two young children when she was broad-sided at an intersection by a driver who failed to stop at a stop sign.  The youngest, ironically a girl, 14 months as well, was critically injured and sustained traumatic brain injury.  Again, myself and many people have followed this story, this time via Facebook, as it unfolds.  The child lived and is home now.  BUT ... again as with the first example, there are long-term implications.  An unending round of various therapies, blood work, eeg's,   The mother lost her job because she has to constantly work with her little girl to help her regain the functioning she lost in the accident.  Recently, she posted an explanation about why she's not working because apparently people are coming to her and giving her a hard time.  The idea being:  "your child is well now, why aren't you able to just get up and move on?"  They're confusing life-threatening with being completely well.  They're forgetting there's a middle ground.  A very long middle ground.  The chronic phase in which this little girl is relearning how to do everything including eat, make sounds and eventually form words.  All the things the accident took away from her.

For me, I've discovered through this journey that the people I bond with the most are people who have something sort of in common with me.  These are the one who have autoimmune diseases - of which there is a whole grocery list from TTP, to Adult Onset Stills, to fibromyalgia, lupus, etc. and or other "invisible" diseases such as heart disease, depression, trauma, etc.

These are the people who understand.  Intimately.  Because they're stuck in the chronic themselves.

Each one has a common thread.  We're all stuck in something we can't get out of.  For people who develop most of these diseases, it's a life time sentence.  For some, such as TTP, there is the possibility of remission but even then there are many affects such as constant migraines that continue to plague the person forever.

As I walk through the valley of trauma and work through towards recovery - whatever it may look like, I've discovered that I have the most in common and receive the most understanding from those who are going through a journey with diseases, circumstances such as those noted above.

Why?

Because they've been there, done that, and they don't like the fit of the t-shirt they're forced to wear due to their chronic disease.

In short, because most of us look like the picture of health, there is no way the uninformed observer can know the challenges we face on a daily basis.  And so "they" tend to judge us ....  Just like people have been judging this mom whose child sustained traumatic brain injury in the accident.  There's no way a person looking at the picture at the start of this post can realize that I'm going through a lot of junk, have been for a very long time.

They. Just. Don't. Get. It.

They confuse the acute with the chronic.  Acute is one thing.  Chronic is another.

Acute people seem to be able to understand.  Chronic, they don't.

Until tomorrow....






Thursday, November 20, 2014

Surviving Workplace Abuse: An unlikely friend



As I continue writing about what happened to me in the workplace, mixing my own experiences with research and learning more, much more, about what happened to me and coming to terms with both the experiences, the dynamics that caused them and the resulting damage, I've come under attack from various unrelated sources about being negative which has caused me to struggle.

Am I negative because I keep looking back into the past, analyzing it and realizing what happened to me so that I can (hopefully) prevent it from happening again and have a better future?

And so that I can come to terms with my past traumatic experiences, accept them for what they are - and move on in my own time and my own way?

Am I being negative because I want to get workplace bullying out of the "closet" and into the open where the victims of bullies have the freedom to say what happened to them without fear of reprisals?  And hopefully be better understood?

Am I being negative because I want to educate people about the dynamics of bullying?  How subtly it begins so that they can protect themselves in the workplace?

Am I being negative because I share freely with others what my life is like post workplace bullying?  How it has changed my life?  The after effects such as weakness, feeling shaky, breathing problems, cognitive and speech problems resulting from the trauma that scattered my brain cells similar to a real brain injury or a concussion?

Am I being negative?

Am I a negative person?

This plus the very real aftereffects of what happened to me which persist even three plus years after the fact, are things I deal with - and struggle with - on a day to day basis.

I like to think I'm not a negative person.  I like to think that bringing my experiences into the open will someday help others.

I also know the positive things that have come into my life that probably wouldn't have come into my life if all this hadn't happened.  These are harder to share though.

For example, take A - a younger woman I had originally  met in 2009 at a women's retreat we both attended.  We didn't have much in common, but we did hit it off and had fun together.

Life intervened and a few years later she was diagnosed with schizophrenia and I went through workplace abuse.

We accidentally reconnected last year in a surprising way.  We both went to a women's breakfast sponsored by her church.  Somehow, I ended up losing my chair and sat down elsewhere.  Unfortunately, that chair happened to be empty, but claimed by someone else.  Someone who came up to me, confronted me and demanded that I get up.

To others that wouldn't be such a big deal, but to me who sees things through the lens of trauma, the lens of isolation and exclusion from what happened in the workplace, it pushed my triggers.  I wanted to grab my coat and run out.  I felt soiled like I'd done something wrong.  Immediately others who were aware of my past and my issues and limitations, found a place for me - a small student's desk in the corner.

A contacted me afterwards and made sure that I knew that she was glad that I had come to the breakfast.  She says that even my presence makes her feel good.

A bit later there was another breakfast and I wasn't going to attend, but A made it clear that she wanted me to go.  She also made sure that I always had a place to sit - beside her.  Our friendship began to grow from then on.

We're an odd couple in many ways.  I'm petite, she's large.  I'm urban, she's more rural.  I'm from a high church (Anglican) background, she's from a Mennonite background.  I have a university degree, she barely has an elementary school education.  Frankly, we have nothing in common.

Except...

... Except that we're both marginalized:  she by schizophrenia and I by trauma.  Both of us struggle in ways others can't understand.  Both of us deal daily with things we'd rather not.

And for that reason, we both understand each other in ways others cannot.

Our friendship is based on mutual acceptance.  I can talk to her about things I can't talk to about with others.  I don't mind being with her on the bad days when the words don't come or they come garbled.  It doesn't bother her a bit.   She understands and allows me to be me.  I feel relaxed in her company.  I don't have to pretend to be anything other than what I am.  I don't have to pretend to be strong.  I can just be plain old, unvarnished, imperfect me.

The other day, she called and wanted a change of scenery.  She was tired of staring at her own four ways and wanted a different set of four walls to stare at.  I'd been having one of my bad periods where I hadn't been able to do much, where I felt like something heavy was on my chest and I was having trouble breathing and feeling weak but I allowed hubby to go pick her up and bring her over for a few hours.

We laughed.  We talked.  We shared experiences. We watched videos.

I felt the load lessen.  The heaviness lift.  More energy seemed to flow in.

Together we shared various gifts:  the gift of laughter, of conversation, of understanding, of valuing each other, of not judging.

At the end, we were both aware that I was in a much better space than when I'd answered the phone a few hours before.

Would A have come into my life in such a positive way if I hadn't gone through the trauma of workplace bullying and it's resultant damage?  Or would I have shunned her because of her mental illness?  I'm guess that this friendship which blesses me so much would never have happened if I had not gone through workplace bullying.

Workplace bullying has changed me.  The way I look at life.  The way I react and/or respond to things.

It has caused damage - yes.  But it has also brought me special gifts.

Like A.

Until tomorrow....



Wednesday, November 19, 2014

In the beginning: Where the bullying started

Now that I've finally gotten around to the co-worker I'll call person #2, it's hard to know where to start.  What to say.  How to begin.

It was all so subtle at that time:  in the beginning.

I had no idea of the world of pain that I was going to experience for the next few years nor the amount of damage that was going to happen because of this person.  Because I was opting to move temporarily out of a bad situation with a co-worker I inadvertently ended up in a much worse situation.  Using an ole time-honoured cliche, I went from the frying pan to the fire.  But slowly, oh so slowly.

Before I go into more of the story, let me start with a couple of paragraphs from a resource I recently found on the web sight www.bullyon.org Introduction to the Serial Bully which describes in detail almost exactly what I went through in the office all those years ago,

Written by the Tim Field Foundation.
"Serial Bully" is a term that Tim Field coined to describe the character he came to realise was behind the majority of cases that came to his attention when he ran the UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line between 1996 and 2004. His clients often described similar character traits, patterns of behaviour and events indicating that, in a given workplace, there was usually one person responsible for the bullying, for whom bullying was a modus operandi. He observed that when one target left the bully's environment, the bully would then focus their obnoxious behaviour on someone else; the new target would eventually leave and another would unwittingly take their place, hence the term "serial bully".
Although the above about the bully moving on to another target after the first one was removed would hold true in the case of person #1 in my scenario, it appears that with person #2 she simply chose a target shortly after changing jobs and coming into our office.  That target was me.

The article then goes on to say:
This is a bully who will move from one target to another, and whose depravity is only constrained by the realisation that they have to appear normal to fit in among civilised people. One consequence is that they rarely use physical violence on their targets, resorting instead to activities that are harder for onlookers to notice, such as emotional blackmail and underhand tactics to get their way.
To which I say:  Right on!
A serial bully could be anyone. They are attracted to positions of authority, but not everyone in authority is a serial bully, and not every serial bully is in a position of authority. They cannot be identified by their status, but by their actions.
Again, very descriptive of what I experienced in the workplace.  Both of the people I believe are serial bullies appear very normal, even likeable - especially at the beginning of the relationship.  Neither resulted to physical violence.  Their tactics were very much "under the radar".

Keep in mind that the excerpts I've quoted are only the very beginnings of the article.  The first page.  Tim Fields offers more, much more, insight into the phenomenon of serial bullying in later pages.  The who.  The what.  The where.  They why.  The how.

Of course, in the case of workplace bullying, the where is fairly self evidence:  it's in the workplace.

However, a serial bully can be anybody and can be any situation which involves people.

Here is an excerpt of some ramblings from my mind from the beginnings of a book which I've never been able to finish:
A physical description of the grown-up bully, would be a woman in her 20's, 30's, 40's and 50's with long, short, medium length blonde, brown, auburn or black hair – and anything in between.  She would be short, average height or tall, slim, average build or stocky and of average to high intelligence.  She has a high school, trade school (college in Canada) or university education.  In short, there is nothing to make her distinguishable from anyone else.  She does not have two heads, conspicuous warts, buck teeth or any other anomaly. 
Although the wording is completely differently, these thoughts penned in approximately 2010, bear a remarkable resemblance to what Tim Fields noted in the excerpts above.  There is nothing physical to set a serial bully apart from everyone else.  It is their actions, their tactics that should expose them.

I went on to say what I believed then, and still believe now, made these people what they are.
 What makes her (the bully) different from the average co-worker is not her physical appearance or description, but rather the baggage she's carrying inside her.  The insecurity.  The deep down emotional wounds and scars this person carries with her from way back, maybe even childhood.  These are the same insecurities and inner wounds that compelled her to bully as a pre-teen.  Unhealed and tended to, they are still there.  Motivating her to continue the cycle of passive violence.  Not only will the people around her not recognize these inner wounds, but most likely the bully herself is not even aware of what is causing her to behave in this way.  It's like the furniture in her bedroom.  It's part of the scenery.  It's part of her life. She may even say, “This is just the way, I am.”  She might even go further and say to the target, “I've learned one thing that you haven't.  You can't change people.  And this is just the way I am.”  Sad but true.  The target cannot change the bully, nor should she try.  It would be an exercise in futility.  Also a huge waste of time and energy.  The bully is in denial.  Denial about her bullying.  Denial about the pain inside of her that causes her to lash out at people she deems as weaker than herself.  Denial about the seriousness of her actions.  Even denial about her own part in the on-going workplace drama.  In her eyes, there is nothing wrong or abnormal about what she is doing.  Since she feels that she is doing nothing wrong, she feels further wounded and victimized if the target brings the behaviour up to management.
Although the paragraph above, written by me years ago while I was still struggling with being actively bullied in the workplace is written compassionately, much more compassionately than the writings of the Tim Field Foundation, it contains a stark truth which is later revealed in the articles I've accessed:  the bully is in denial.  Completely denial of what she is doing, of what the impacts on the other person are, etc.

*******

Enough for today!  I've set the stage regarding pieces of information, facts if you will, about the serial bully before continuing on to more of the story regarding the presence of person #2 in the office. 

Until tomorrow....



         

Monday, November 17, 2014

Surviving Workplace Abuse: Serial Bullying - where it all began


In the beginning .....

Which, by the way are the words the first chapter of Genesis in the Bible begin with, is an appropriate way to start today's blog.

Because workplace bullying does have a beginning.

The problem is that it is so minute, so little, in the scheme of things that no one is going to be able to see it for what it is.

That is what happened to me.

I'd already had the experience with the person I'm calling person #1 where I had accidentally said something in jest that offended her so deeply that she never forgave me and started a vendetta which lasted four years until I finally "resigned" (under duress).  I'm calling her person #1 partly to keep her identity private and also because I don't believe that at this point it really is in anyone's best interest to identify specific people.  I feel that it is better to identify types of people to be able to open my readers' eyes to the bully at the desk next to them, in the room with them, even in a different office entirely.

My biggest mistake was to assume that because this person, person #1, was in a different office altogether that she posed no threat to me.

Oops!  There go those dratted "assumptions" and "perceptions" again.

I've already mentioned that when person #2 came into our office, we were in quite a state of change.  I was embarking on a different position altogether, although still in our office, to get a "separation" from a co-worker who was driving me nuts.  She constantly left 2-4 hours worth of catch up work for me to do and was constantly criticizing me and bringing "mistakes" to my attention in emails, etc.  In addition, we had two new workers, one part-time to work weekends and one full-time to take over my position on a "temporary" basis, starting on the same day.  I was expected to train both of them - at the same time.  (Try it.  It's not doable.)  Also, the manager who had hired me for my new position and who had hired these two new workers and assigned me to train them at the same time left suddenly.  Very suddenly.  As in walked out suddenly.

We had a woman who was in a manager trainee program already on board who was being groomed to take on our supervision a bit later in her term with us.  She was suddenly thrust into that role without the opportunity to ask any questions of the man she was replacing.

That was the same day the person I was getting a separation from decided to bring up verbally in front of my new trainee an issue she had.  It was the same old, same old pattern with this woman. Quite frankly, I was both quite tired of it and frustrated with it.   She made an accusation which was not true - which was normally the case.  In front of my new trainee - which I do not think was appropriate.  A trainee I was deliberately not advising of my problems/conflict with this woman - because I didn't think it was appropriate to give her my baggage.  I wanted her to be able to think for herself.  In hindsight, that was a bad idea.

I defended myself that day in front of my trainee - which turned out badly.  As in verbally badly.  As in an argument badly.

The next thing I knew, the manager trainee came over to ask me what she could do to help me take "constructive criticism" better.

???????

Other than the fact that there is nothing constructive about criticism?

Other than the fact that it had not been announced that she was our new supervisor?  Talk about being blind-sided.

This one day when everything seemed to hit the fan at the same time was, in hindsight, the catalyst for what happened.  It set the stage for all the dynamics, alliances, etc. that followed.

In and of itself, it appeared to be nothing to get up in the middle of the night and write home about.

Yet, it created several different dynamics.  One was that it brought me to the attention of the brand new supervisor in a negative light.  As one who couldn't accepted "constructive criticism".  Not as one who was in a tough situation being negatively accused constantly and devalued constantly.

Also, once the problem regarding me trying to train two people at once was brought to her attention, she decided to have the problem child on the shift before me train the person who was going to be taking over my position "temporarily" while I was pursuing other adventures in the office.

This action, I believe set the stage for the years of bullying that followed.  I have no proof.  Just a suspicion.

When I resumed training this woman, person #2, after the part-time worker was trained issues arose which hadn't risen before.

Why?

I never had the guts to ask, but I always wondered if the problem child on the shift before me gossiped about me while the two were together.

As I said, I don't know. And I'll never know.  But one thing I do know, is that person #2's attitude had changed by the time she came back to me.  We no longer had the same relationship, the same camaraderie.  Training person #2 became a battle.  A battle I was totally unprepared for.

More of the story tomorrow....

Friday, November 14, 2014

Surviving Workplace Bullying: More of the story - the second possible serial bully

It's amazing how many things I can think to write about, the words freely flowing from my brain, when I'm otherwise occupied.  On the bus.  In the workplace.  Knitting.  Oh! My mind does some of it's best work when my hands are occupied with needles and yarn.  Too bad I can't plug a USB port from my mind into my computer so I can both at the same time.  Sigh.

Yet when it comes to looking at that blank page, my mind freezes.  Stops entirely.  All the creative juices totally halted.

My mind has been occupied lately not so much with what I experienced in the workplace as the research I just uncovered this week regarding serial bullying.  I always suspected that I had been targeted by serial bullies but could never prove it.  Part of the reason is that the only way it can be proven that a person is a serial bully is by discovering the patterns.  Another part of the problem was that if I did try to speak up, I was constantly dismissed by being told that these were just my "perceptions" and "assumptions" and, therefore, had no validity (the lie I've written about in earlier posts).

In addition, I felt based on my experience in the workplace that those "investigating" the problem were too closely involved and allied with those whom I have identified as serial bullies in the workplace.  Imagine how validated I now feel three plus years later when I see my "assumptions and perceptions" being corroborated when I read the following  section in the Bully Online article entitled "Behaviour of the Serial Bully" which web page I've also linked to an earlier post this week. (Emphasis on certain phrases are mine.)
Virtual Immunity from CorrectionSerial Bullying at work is unlikely to lead to an arrest or even disciplinary proceedings because their most common offences don't involve physical violence or are shrouded in doubt: The serial bully can explain away just about anything, and frequently blames others and distracts attention from the real issues. Few would have the patience to investigate as incisively as necessary. Finding someone with the courage and integrity to investigate impartially is even harder. Any investigator, whether an internal employee or director, or an external investigator, may well fear of adverse consequences from upholding a complaint about a serial bully, the potential consequences being personal (e.g. damage to their own career prospects, not being paid etc.) and corporate (e.g. identifying evidence of actions for which the organisation is vicariously liable).
The writer has studied the results of several investigations into alleged bullying, conducted by internal and external "investigators". Only one was objective and thorough. Of the remainder, the best was superficial in the extreme, with the worst ones obviously intended to destroy the complainants' reputations. Only the objective investigation correctly identified the root of the problem.
One possible explanation for investigators and fellow managers being so easily manipulated by a serial bully appears in a research paper by Clive R Boddy, entitled "Corporate Psychopaths, Bullying and Unfair Supervision in the Workplace" (2011):
"The cold-heartedness and manipulativeness of the psychopath are reported to be the traits that are the least discernable to others and this allows them to gain other people’s confidence and facilitates their entry into positions where they can gain most benefit for themselves and do harm to others (Mahaffey and Marcus, 2006)."

Did you notice how in the last quote, these authors, Mahaffey and Marcus 2006, identified serial bullies as psychopaths?

Scary, isn't it?

Did you also noticed how the "serial bully can explain away anything"?  Which I take to include being how one person could go through approximately six people in an approximately two year period of time.  Not to mention how many people had come and gone in that position previously.

These are all things I've learned in the process.  Things I didn't know then.  If I had, I might have done things differently.  A lot differently.

Also, if I'd been as far along on the path of recovery as I am now, I would have had more strength to do things differently especially with the knowledge I have now.  I wouldn't have put up with all the garbage.  I wouldn't have taken it on myself to make things better by myself.  I would have realized that it takes two and that if the others weren't willing, then trying to make things better by myself was simply an exercise in futility.

As it was, at the point all this started in the fall of 2006, I was in the very beginnings of what would turn out to be an amazing journey on the road to recovery.

At that point, I was still "scared of my own shadow", eager to please, easily intimidated, avoided confrontation like the plague, etc.  I realize now that part of my dysfunction was that I had been raised from early childhood to be a co-dependent, and that tendency was to play a major role in the scenario unfolding in the workplace.

If I had been the person I am now combined with the knowledge I have now, especially that at least one person was a serial bully and there appears to be a relationship between serial bullies and psychopathy, I would (or should) have realized that I was in a situation where winning was not possible.  The best thing I could have done for me would have been to quit at the very beginnings of the situation.

But I didn't know that then.  The literature I've read says that because bullying at it's beginnings is very subtle and virtually unrecognizable to anyone, including the target, it takes approximately two years for the target to realize that he/she is being bullied.  That was me.  It was almost exactly two years from the instigation until I realized that I was being bullied.  And even then, I was resistant to the concept.  It was only the research on the net that opened my eyes.

If you think there is any possibility that you are being bullied in the workplace, I urge you to do a google search and start looking at what it says.  Research carefully, though.  Look for multiple articles by multiple people to back up your "perceptions and assumptions".  And if you do choose to go to HR with your findings, back up your position with hard copies of the research and make sure you leave them with the HR representative.  It's much harder to dismiss hard copies of written research then it is to dismiss thoughts or concepts conveyed verbally.

*******

This isn't really where I intended to go today.  Frankly I admit I am procrastinating about going into the situation with the person whom I will simply call "person #2 who I believe may also be a serial bully.

However, I felt it was time to interject some of the research here so we - you, the reader, and I, the writer, - have some common basis for what I'll be writing about in the future.

In the workplace, I realized that none of us were in the same book store, let alone the same book.  The same page?  Forget that concept entirely.

In order to even have a hope of understanding the complexity of workplace bullying, we need to be as close to the same page as possible.  Being in the same book helps.  

Until Monday....

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Surviving Workplace Bullying: A serial bully in action


Things look different the farther away we get from a situation.  Hindsight gives us the chance to look back on an incident or an experience from a different perspective.  This is what I'm doing in today's post looking back on the difficulties the co-worker I believe was serial bully #1 had in retaining a partner.

*******

As the two articles I accessed via a google search using the words serial bullying yesterday lined up almost as a perfect match to what I experienced in the workplace, the twin temptations are to start regurgitating the material word for word and/or go off on a new train detailing exactly what serial bullying is linking it to incidents that happened in my workplace rather than telling my story without embellishment.

I had started on a series of telling my story regarding the various aspects of bullying.  That I do believe that it started with a serial bully and and then progressed to pairing.  And that there was  an element of vicarious bullying in the mix before my experience finally culminated in the aspect of bullying called mobbing.

Rather than veering off into exposing the research of what serial bullying, what it is, etc., I've decided for the moment to focus on my own experience with the bullies whom I encountered in the workplace and who I believe exhibit the phenomena called serial bullying.

I've already introduced the first co-worker, the one who started the ball rolling.

I had intended by this time to go on to the second person.  However, before I move on, I want to delve just a little deeper into the pattern history of person #1.  You see, it's the pattern that defines whether a person is a serial bully or not.  It's not just one incident taken out of context, but many incidents throughout this person's work history that will either prove or disprove if this employee fits the criterion of being a serial bully.

I believe this particular co-worker does.

Basically, a serial bully is a person who targets one person, gets them fired - or whatever - and then moves on to someone else.  Ad nausea.

So let's look into person #1 just a little bit deeper.

When I first started at that workplace, person #1 worked in tandem with a lovely young lady, always smiling, who was pregnant.  She left for maternity leave but never came back as she had found another job before her mat leave ended.  This sounds plausible enough.  However, in our company, the wages, perks, benefits, etc. were pretty good.  Much better than many other employers for the same types of job.  People just didn't leave for no good reason.  Generally speaking, of course.

Another employee from my office jumped at the chance to get on a regular day shift; however, after a period of time, she brought a complaint to HR that that the person I've identified as person #1 made her feel small and belittled her.  After the complaint was made, she left suddenly on sick leave.  She never came back.

Eventually a replacement was found.  The posting was for a temporary position as the employee was still on sick leave and had not resigned as of yet.  Our job was to train the new employee first on our job so that she would get a better understanding of the dynamics involved when she got to her job.  There were personality issues with her from the git go.  She was in everyone's face.  When her time came to go back to the other office and be trained on her position and work with person #1, person #1 had a fit.  She hated this woman and everything about her from the beginning and complained bitterly about her.  Ironically, the new employee didn't last very long and suddenly disappeared from the scene.

The posting went up again and another employee from another department which was being moved out of town requiring a commute of approximately 45 minutes jumped at the chance to stay in our facility.  Again the posting was for a temporary position in hopes that the first employee would eventually be able to return to work.  Again, we trained her first before passing her on to serial bully #1.  There were some issues, but frankly no one is perfect.  She was hard working, loyal and reliable.  But person #1 disliked her.  A lot.  And made no bones about that to us.  After another fairly short period of time, a posting for a permanent position in our office came up and she jumped at the chance for a permanent position in our facility.  Thus leaving person #1 without a co-worker - again.

The posting went up again.  This time, a young man from the plant took the posting as he wanted to go from the plant where the product was made to an office job.  He lasted approximately two, maybe three, weeks and then suddenly disappeared.

It was at this point that I made my "fatal" mistake of saying what I thought was in jest:  "So he couldn't hack you either?

The comment she never forgave me for.  The comment that caused her to put her "I don't get angry, I get even" philosophy into action.

The comment that made me office enemy #1 to her and - eventually - to my entire office as well.

Somewhere in the time spectrum, the first employee did resign and the posting became permanent.  A lovely young lady came in.  At this point, I was off on night shift for something like four weeks learning a different job, so I had nothing to do with training her or getting to know her.

Looking back, I realize that since I was gone during what I now realized was a crucial period of change in our office with new employees coming in and old ones leaving, I had unwittingly allowed an environment where new dynamics friendships, alliances not only formed but flourished.

Alliances that were so strong that they could not be broken - and eventually progressed to the point of no return in my struggle to survive.

However, I struggled on for four long years.

The story, though, is not quite over yet.  This young woman seemed to work out well.  She worked the same shifts/hours as her co-worker.  She worked afternoons when her co-worker/mentor worked afternoons; days when she worked days.  They were kind of like the Bobsey Twins.  Always together.  Therefore, it was a bit of a surprise when after approximately a year, this young lady left to go back to school.

So the posting went up again.  This time, since it was now a permanent posting, the woman who had done it for a short time when it was temporary and had moved to a permanent posting within my office, the woman person #1 hated, applied for and got the posting for a second time.  Ironically, her hours stayed with normal business hours.  She never worked afternoons.  I think this may have been the reason why this lady lasted.  That and the fact that she had a thick hide.  She was still there when I left.

Looking at the pattern, we have six people who came and went, most of them within weeks or months after taking the posting, in a period of approximately one to two years.  Was person #1 just having a really bad run of luck with people who applied for and got the job?  Or was she a serial bully?

One can look at each of the co-workers who left.  One got another job.  One got sick and went on disability.  One left to go back to school.  These are plausible.  BUT ... there are so many of them.  One after the other.  And then, there are the two people we really can't account for as to why they suddenly disappeared off the radar screen.  We never heard from - or about - them again.  They just "disappeared".

 Until tomorrow ....


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Surviving Workplace Abuse: Serial Bullying in the Workplace - an overview

It seems like one train of thought leads into another; one blog posting leads into another - and sometimes into a series.

I find the word series here ironic as my postings, musings, recovery, etc. have led me to focus on exploring the various types of bullying I experienced in the workplace: the first of which was serial.  Or rather, a series of people being bullied one after the other by one co-worker.

Beginning a new post is always difficult for me.  My eyes stare at a blank page on the computer screen.  My mind has an idea of what I want to say in the body of the post.  But how to get started?  How to begin the topic?

So, I decided to look up the word "serial" on the net to get a definition.  Instead, I actually found resources on the net specifically about serial bullying in the workplace by Tim Fields who started Bullyonline:  one of the best resources I've found on workplace bullying.  In particular, two articles gained my attention which comprehensively describe aspects of serial bullying.  Articles which all too accurately described what I experienced in that workplace but had not realized were part and parcel of the phenomenon called serial bullying.   Unfortunately, these resources were not available to me at the time I was going through the bullying experience.  Although these resources may have been accessible via the net.  However, my mind processes things slowly and until this morning when I went to start this blog posting on serial bullying and how it affected me in the workplace, I never thought to key in that particular search term.

This highlights some of the difficulties a person who is being targeted for bullying in the workplace experiences while they are going through it.  Lack of awareness of what they're experiencing.  Lack of support. And lack of people who have been through workplace bullying to guide us through the experience.  If others have been bullied in that particular workplace, they are probably long gone by the time you are experiencing it.  Also, many people who have been bullied in the workplace don't talk about it - ever.  Sometimes even to those closest to them.

We are led to believe that what happened to us is all our fault.  That somehow we caused these people - or this person - in the workplace to have something against us.  That we are the instigator of the problem.  Because of that, when we do leave no matter how we get out or what condition we're in when we get out, we tend to stay in seclusion and lick our wounds in private.

We don't want others to know.  Heck!  We don't even want to admit the truth of the horrendous experience to others.  If we could live in a world of denial, we would.

If I could live in a world of denial, perhaps I would too.  However, with all the damage done.  with all the affects I've struggled with for the past three plus years - and still continue to struggle with - I don't have that luxury.

Which is probably why I seem to be the exception to the rule.   Why I strongly feel that it is important to get workplace bullying out of the "closet" and into the open.

It is real.

It is very damaging.  Sometimes to the point of death by suicide.

It is preventable IF those in positions of authority will acknowledge it, research it and implement policies and procedures to identify bullying in the workplace and to deal with it.

It is not the victim's i.e. target's fault.  The target/victim is not responsible for those who have selected them.  And there is nothing the target can do to stop the bullying.

... if I knew then what I know now ....

*******

Back to Tim Fields:  the first significant resources I found this morning is an introduction to serial bullying; the second describes the serial bully's attitudes towards life and work.

Both are excellent resources for someone who is being bullied. and who thinks that maybe they're in the clutches of a serial bully.  They are also great resources for those who have a friend or relative who is being bullied - or may be being bullied - in the workplace and for those in management and HR positions within the company.

If I did nothing else but post the links to these two articles - which I have, I would feel that my purpose is done for today.

So today I do something I haven't done before.  I stop here and ask you, the reader, to link onto those two resources and read what Tim Fields has written.  Familiarize yourself with what serial bullying is.  How it works.  The reasons why the serial bully succeeds.

Keep in mind as you read that Tim Fields' scenario is talking about one serial bully in the workplace while I have discerned two possibly three in my workplace.

... if I knew then what I've found out today reading Tim Fields' articles, I would print them off my computer and put them on the desk of my manager(s), HR and the union president.  I would also forward hard copies via mail, to those in higher positions within the corporation.

Read ... and weep.

Until tomorrow.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Surviving Workplace Abuse: Why I write about my experience in the workplace


A friend told me recently that she doesn't read my blog because she works hard to be positive and doesn't allow negativity in her life.

That simple statement, said as a fact not maliciously, not in a manner to hurt, gave me a lot to think about.

Am I a negative person?  Is that how my readers see me?  Or, rather, perceive me?

I've worked hard to be positive even when it didn't seem like there was much to be positive about.  Even when I spent more time completely down for the count on my bed than up and doing anything productive.  Even when the brain was so scrambled that it was hard to think, let another verbalize, a coherent thought.

I once told a close friend that there was always something to be thankful for.  Less than a week later, the bottom fell out of my little world and I faced renewed struggles with more trauma added onto what I already had experienced.  More injury.  More scrambling of the brain cells.  Etc.

Those words came back to sting me big time:  "there is always something to be thankful for".  I believe there is.  The problem is sometimes you have to dig pretty deeply to find it under all the maneur life throws at you.

I think the big thing here in this blog is not necessarily whether I'm negative, positive, a little bit of both, or even a realist.  The fact is that bullying is not a fun topic to talk about.  To write about.  Or to read about.

It's horrific.  Not in the same sense as a car accident, a bombing, or a shooter coming into a school or workplace and getting their revenge on real or perceived wrongs.  It's horrific in the impact it has one lives - one victim, usually, at a time.

Those of us who have either gone through it, are currently going through it or are walking with those who have gone through it, know that all too well.

Bullying in whatever form it takes - schoolyard or workplace - is never positive.  It's never a good thing to happen.  Plain and simple - it's wrong.  Very wrong.

My aim is not to depress people, but to raise awareness of workplace bullying.  That it's not a simple personality clash.  To educate people about it's reality.  What it is. What it does to people.  Why it's wrong.  And also to provide a basis for support and recovery for those who have or are going through it.  To let people know that recovery is possible.  That there is hope for a better tomorrow.  That their past may well affect certain aspects of their lives, but It. Does. Not. Determine. Their. Value. Or. Their. Future.

Workplace bullying is not vague.  It's complicated.  Very complicated.  And messy.

I'm guessing that each situation of workplace bullying is different depending on who is doing the bullying i.e. co-workers, management, etc.  It can be vertical.  Meaning one supervisor is bullying one employee.  It can also be vertical with an employee bullying a supervisor.  And then there's lateral bullying - which is what I experienced - with an employee targeting a co-worker.  How many people are involved.  Which form of bullying is it?  Serial, pairing, vicarious, mobbing?  Just to name a few. 

 In my case, the scenario got very messy and very complicated quickly because even at the outset I had more than one co-worker involved.  It started out with three co-workers.  Two in my office and one in another office.  I've already written about her in my last post.  I truly believe there was more than one form of bullying present in my situation.  I believe it started out with one or two serial bullies who paired together with each other and with another person who I believe specialized in vicarious bullying.  Later, as time and the situation progressed, more people - the bystanders - jumped on the bandwagon and joined the movement thus becoming mobbing.

For me it began with a three-headed bully.  It was hard, even at the onset, to separate the heads and determine the dynamics of these co-workers' relationship with each other.  I think it's safe to say that these people fed on each other.  Each one had hurts, each one appeared to feel that others were out to get them or hurt them (my perception based on observation and overheard conversations).  Somehow, these three found each other and formed a relationship both inside and outside the office.  They also found a common enemy:  me.

The Bible talks about a three stranded cord not being easily broken.  Three strands make the rope - or cord - strong.  Strong enough to withstand heavy duty pressure.  The strands intertwine with each other and cannot be easily separated or broken.  That is what my situation in the workplace was like.  Three strands.  Three heads.  Three bullies.  Together they became an unstoppable force.

In the end, I think what happened to me in the workplace was more about these people than it was about me.

*******

This is not the post I intended to write today.  Yes, I know you've heard that one before.  It seems to happen regularly.  I fully intended to continue on the story about the second co-worker I believe to be a serial bully but this concept about negativity derailed me a bit.  However, I've been thinking about how to simplify what happened to me in the workplace so that the reader can more easily understand the dynamics involved.

With three people involved in the beginning, it was already complicated.  And it got messier and more complicated as time progressed.

This one post alone contains a lot of fodder for more postings on the different forms bullying can take i.e. serial, pairing, vicarious, mobbing, etc.  These are the four that are relevant in my situation.

Until tomorrow....


Friday, November 7, 2014

Surviving Workplace Abuse: The next chapter in my saga about how I became the workplace target - the beginnings


The picture above was taken from the Observation platform of the Parry Sound (Ontario) observation tower overlooking the town of Parry Sound, the harbour and a piece of Georgian Bay.  Gorgeous, eh?

It is so much easier to see the overview, to place pieces in context, when one is looking at things from a distance.  You see things from this vantage point that you would never see on ground level, up close and personal.

So it is with my experience in the workplace with bullying.  From a distance, it is so much easier to see and analyse things.  For me that distance is the three plus years I've been out of the workplace working diligently on recovery.

The distance - and recovery, partial that it appears to be - also afford me the ability to look back at my experience without many of the feelings I experienced when going through it:  the confusion, the anger, etc.

The distance allows me the opportunity to look at things more objectively and say this is what happened to me in as factual and logical way as possible.

*******

I started yesterday's blog with the intention of talking about the type of workplace bullying called "mobbing", but as my fingers filtered through the thoughts in my head on the keyboard, I realized that going straight to the type of bullying called "mobbing" is like putting the cart before the horse.

Bullying starts small.  Usually with only one person.  However, like a little snowball which when rolled around and around enough on moist, wet, packing snow becomes larger and larger until at some point it is so large, heavy and unwieldy that it cannot be moved, unchecked bullying has the potential to become something much larger than its individual, component parts.

And that is why it goes unnoticed in its earliest stages.  The very beginnings of the snowball called bullying are often completely undetectable - by anyone - even the person selected for bullying.

I truly believe that my situation in the workplace began with two separate people, unfortunately at the same time in the same place (our workplace), who had their own issues.  Their own problems.  Their own hopes and desires.  I just happened to intersect with both of them separately in negative ways.  And they both happened to intersect with each other and draw others into the snowball.

Both, I believe were serial bullies in the past.  Moving from one "victim" to another.

I believe from the first co-worker's own words, plus observation, that she had a pattern of bullying people long before I ever crossed her path.

In fact, the Union president who worked in our office during that time, at one point said that this person had problems "getting along with people".  That was before.  Before the Union president became privy to whatever my co-workers were saying about me and joined forces with them.

Today, we go into the second co-worker who I also believe, although I cannot prove it, was a serial bully.

I'd been having problems with the co-worker who worked the shift immediately before mine.  She often left two to four hours of work from her shift for me to finish.  I often felt like I was like a race horse rushing as fast as people out of the starting gate.  Day after day.  As we were a 24/7 operation in the transportation industry, I had no choice but to finish the work she'd not done.  If I didn't complete what she didn't, the product would not go out.

In addition, this person would isolate and pick on little things.  Constantly.  I was the target of petty emails on a constant basis.  I was the target of misinformation.  I can't recall at this time all the little things this person did because they were little.  They were petty.  But they were constant.  Undermining.

I discovered later, much later when the bullying in the workplace was full-blown and I started researching it, that this behaviour of picking on the little things with the intent of undermining a well-established employee also comes under the definition of bullying.

As time progressed and the situation continued, I decided it was time for a "divorce" so to speak from this person.  An opportunity came up to take a mat leave position which, while remaining in the same office, would effectively remove me from direct interaction with that person.  It would also entail learning new skills.  Working different shifts.

I jumped at it.

What is that saying about going from the frying pan to the fire?

Moving to the new position involved training someone to temporarily take my existing position and then going into a long period of training myself.  And that is where I made a crucial mistake.

I figured the person coming in knew - and accepted - the fact that this was a temporary position.  That I "owned" the job she was taking over and that I had every intent of going back to that job when the mat leave was finished.

Oops!

I had difficulty with this person from the very beginning.  Although to be fair, I have to admit that she came in at a difficult time.  I was supposed to train her - and another person - at the same time (which is an impossible task at the best of times, I think) AND catch up on all the leftover work at the same time.  I couldn't really begin training this person until I got caught up.  Simply because it takes extra time for untrained people to catch on.

Also, the person in question had come from another part of our large plant, the production part, which was a separate entity entirely.  There was no certainty that if this didn't work out for her long term that she would be able to get her old position back.  So it was a risky enterprise for her.  One I only recognized too late.

Also, concurrently, the supervisor who had hired me for the mat leave and hired this person to replace me and who had created the scenario of me training two people at the same time, left suddenly.  As in he was there one day and gone the next.  Walked out.

Oops again!

Fortunately, we had a management trainee on board who had been destined to take over the responsibility for our supervision so she took over that supervisory role - just much sooner than she had thought.  Without the transition period she had expected.

Does anyone else see this as a recipe for disaster?  At least in hindsight?

An overworked employee who is expected to play catch up on a daily basis, train two people at once combined with a new, inexperienced supervisor?  Not to mention, the co-worker I was trying to get a "divorce" from who was still in her position and still very capable of undermining me?


*******

... If I knew then what I know now.

If I knew how all these various forces in and of themselves, not even factoring in the individual in the other office I've identified as a possible serial bully, perhaps, just perhaps, I would have realized that I was at the very beginning of an exercise in futility and cut my losses and run.

But leaving, quitting, is not in my personality.  It is not something I do.

So I continued on.  


The picture above is taken from the exact same location, the Observation Tower, in Parry Sound, overlooking the same piece of scenery, from the same angle.  The only difference is that for this picture, I used my zoom lens.  Zooming in on one particular aspect, in this case a boat which fascinated me, of the scenery below.

In a sense, this is what I'm doing with this blog posting.  Zooming in, focussing, on one particular experience in a long series of experiences that comprised my experience with bullying in the workplace.

Until Monday ... I hope you have a good weekend.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Workplace Abuse: Types of Workplace Bullying - one type is the serial bully

Even when I was still in the workplace, I had become aware of what was happening.  Because of the dynamics which existed among the co-workers, management, HR and even the union, I was powerless to prevent or stop it.  But I was aware.

Very aware.

It was an odd situation, at least to me, as the more I learned about what was happening, the more the research lined up with what I was experiencing, the less I was heard.  The more I was victimized.

I believe that I've mentioned the phenomena called "mobbing" before.  We often think of mobbing in terms of an actual mob storming a physical place.  Like the mob that overtook the American embassy in Tehran back in 1979 and took embassy personnel hostage.  Or mobs attacking a person out on the street leaving grievous damage.

We don't often think of mobbing as occurring in an office situation.  But that's exactly what happens when the one bully becomes two then three and keeps growing from there.  It wasn't until I looked at the signatures on the petition disguised as a complaint that I realized the full extent of what I was up against.

Every co-worker in our small office on all three shifts had signed - except one brave soul.

How did all these people get involved?  What did these people, one of whom only saw me once or twice a week because he never arrived in time to take over his shift before I left, have against me?  Why - or rather how - did they get involved?

In one word:  gossip.  In another word:  backbiting.  In two words:  character assassination.  Need I go one?

Although those in power in the office would scoff at that last line claiming it was my "perception" and "assumption", logically there is no other way that this could have spread to so many people.  Most of whom weren't physically present when I was working.

You've heard the phrase:  "what happens in the ________ stays in the ________."  Well, that wasn't so in our office.  What happened in the office, in our shift, among the three or four or sometimes even two of us who were working at the time, didn't stay with us.  It spread.  Rapidly.  Viciously.  Like a virus.  Somehow everyone knew what Suzanne had done this time.

No one ever had the decency to come to me and tell me what they'd heard and if it was true.

No one.

They all took what was said at face value.

And that is why I believe there was one person at the tip.  One person who might - or might not - have been a sociopath or psychopath.  But one person who was charismatic enough, powerful enough, convincing enough to sway otherwise intelligent people into following her.

At this point, as I'm letting my fingers do the talking on this post, I have two roads to follow today.  One:  the road I started with re: mobbing.  The other: continuing yesterday's road re: sociopathy or psychopathy in the office.

For the moment, I'll choose to follow the mobbing thread because I think it's important.

In my initial research at the beginning of this journey called workplace bullying aka pyschological harrassment, I learned that there were several forms of bullying in the workplace.  Below is a list I've copied and pasted from Wikipedia which cites Tim Fields as the source of the information. 

  • Serial bullying — the source of all dysfunction can be traced to one individual, who picks on one employee after another and destroys them, then moves on. Probably the most common type of bullying.
  • Secondary bullying — the pressure of having to deal with a serial bully causes the general behaviour to decline and sink to the lowest level.
  • Pair bullying — this takes place with two people, one active and verbal, the other often watching and listening.
  • Gang bullying or group bullying — is a serial bully with colleagues. Gangs can occur anywhere, but flourish in corporate bullying climates. It is often called mobbing and usually involves scapegoating and victimisation.
  • Vicarious bullying — two parties are encouraged to fight. This is the typical "triangulation" where the aggression gets passed around.
  • Regulation bullying — where a serial bully forces their target to comply with rules, regulations, procedures or laws regardless of their appropriateness, applicability or necessity.
  • Residual bullying — after the serial bully has left or been fired, the behavior continues. It can go on for years.
  • Legal bullying — the bringing of a vexatious legal action to control and punish a person. It is one of the nastiest forms of bullying.
  • Pressure bullying or unwitting bullying — having to work to unrealistic time scales and/or inadequate resources.
  • Corporate bullying — where an employer abuses an employee with impunity, knowing the law is weak and the job market is soft.
  • Organizational bullying — a combination of pressure bullying and corporate bullying. Occurs when an organization struggles to adapt to changing markets, reduced income, cuts in budgets, imposed expectations and other extreme pressures.
  • Institutional bullying — entrenched and is accepted as part of the culture.
  • Client bullying — an employee is bullied by those they serve, for instance subway attendants or public servants.
  • Cyber bullying — the use of information and communication technologies to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behaviour by an individual or group, that is intended to harm others.

The four I've always felt applied to my situation were #s 1, 3, 4 and 5: serial, pair, gang and vicarious.

My situation involved, at least initially, two people.  Two separate people who initially didn't have a relationship with each other.  One was a person who didn't even work in our office.  In fact, she wasn't supposed to be on our shift, but somehow she convinced those in management, HR and the union that she didn't need to work day shift with the other office workers, that she could do her job quite well on another shift, and was allowed to design her hours to suit her life.  Initially, she and I had a good relationship until one day ... I said something that I shouldn't have.  Something that hurt her.  Something she never let go of or forgive me for.  It was in jest.  I meant no harm.  They were having trouble finding a replacement for someone who had left who worked in conjunction with this woman.  She had gone through several replacements.  One day, I unthinkingly said something to the effect that this one couldn't get along with you either.  Oops!  A big oops!  I think perhaps I was closer to the truth than I knew.  

This woman had told me once that she didn't get angry, she got even.  I thought that was just one of those cute little sayings.  It wasn't.  She really did live that way.  She got even.  Even if it took her years to do so, she got even.

She had in a way "warned" me of that when we were still friends as she told me about a co-worker whose job intersected with hers that she didn't like.  She didn't say anything.  She simply kept a record of all the mistakes this person made.  Photocopied then.  And then when she had enough, she placed them in an envelope and put the envelope on her supervisor's desk.  The result:  the person no longer worked there.

At the time, I didn't spot the warning signals.  I didn't see this part of her.  In fact, when she would ask why someone would take her to HR claiming that she made this person feel small and belittled, I would stand by this woman.  I.  Did.  Not.  See.  That.  Side.  Of.  Her.

It was only after I made that one unfortunate remark that that side of her became visible.  Not all at once.  But gradually.  Very gradually.  Over time.

I believed then during my subsequent experiences in the workplace and still believe now, that this woman was initially a serial bully.  She picked on one person, got that person out and then picked on someone else, until they left.

*******

Enough for now.  Today's post in long enough.  I don't want to write a book.  At least not in a blog posting.  So I will stop for now.  For today.

In the end, besides involving the entire office on all three shifts, there were five main people involved.  Each one different.

Perhaps it's time to start unravelling the knot, separate each strand i.e. person or dynamic, and identify it.

Until tomorrow ....